Question: You once said that you have all the museums and parks within you. This week I realized that I have all the insane asylums of the world within me! Do realized masters still have crazy minds but transcend them? Or does the mind eventually get sane?
Sri Gurudev: The mind is never sane. It’s always insane. That’s the nature of the mind. Knowing that something will hurt, the mind goes after it. What do you call that? Insanity. That’s the way the mind is; you have to rise above it. Accepting that nature of the mind, you go beyond. Those who have accepted it and have not allowed themselves to be bothered by it are the sane people. They look at others who don’t accept the insanity of the mind and label them as insane. That’s why, many times, sages and saints say the whole world is an insane asylum. It is true. There’s nothing sane in this world. Everything that you think great is not great at all. It’s all an illusion. Your job is to recognize the truth within yourself and recognize that you are happy without running after any of these things. It is only by realizing your own true nature that you are ever going to be sane.
Unfortunately, even to know your true nature, you need the help of the mind. So, make friends with the insane mind and enlist its help to turn within. Who is to realize your true nature? That true nature is God, or God’s image. If you are God’s image, who has forgotten it? How can you—as God—forget yourself as God? You can’t really. When it gets tired of running after worldly things for its peace and happiness, the same insane mind turns toward the True Self. When the mind turns inward, it loses itself and gets absorbed in the True Self.
Imagine a drop of water that wants to know the depth of the sea, because people have told the drop, “You are nothing but a drop from the sea. That’s your original place. You have come out of the sea. You have to realize your source.” What should the drop do? Drop in. Drop into the sea from where it came. Once it drops, in what happens? It loses the individuality that is called “a drop.” The same amount of water is still there—not as drop but as the sea. The mind is like that. The sea is the Cosmic Self, or God. The mind came out of that Cosmic Self and got an identity. There comes a time when the drop wants to know, to realize its source. In that effort, it loses itself. My Gurudev, Swami Sivanandaji, used to sing, “When shall I see Thee? When ‘I’ ceases to be.” How can I see my Self? By losing myself. If you want to see that Cosmic Self—the God in you—as a separate entity, you are still the limited little one seeing the big one; you are not experiencing it. Even your individuality is not reality. There’s no literal separation between you and God. You are never separated. Reaching God, realizing God, becoming God—that’s all just nonsensical terminology, used because we need to say something. The reality is that you are never separated from God; you only think you are separated. Thinking. That’s the insanity of the mind.
Question: How can we learn from the suffering of mental illness?
Sri Gurudev: All our mistakes come to us in the form of illness, physical or mental. Suffering means to clean it out. Nobody, not even nature itself, is interested in causing you suffering. Your suffering is your way to clean out your problems. There’s no gentle way. If your linen is dirty, it has to go through the suffering in the laundromat. You cannot expect the laundry man to fold it and put it on the altar and burn some incense and say, “Get clean.” No; it has to go through suffering. So, that’s what. Suffering means effort in cleaning out problems. If that is clearly understood, you will say, “Yes; I must have done something. Even if I do not know exactly what I did, because there is suffering, I must have done something. So, let me face it. And, of course, if there is somebody who can help me alleviate the suffering, then let them come and help me by the way of medicines or other practices. But suffering is caused by me, against me. I accept it.
Without suffering, I know that I cannot get rid of the problem. I realize the benefit of my suffering. Pain is my friend. No pain, no gain.” That’s the only way to understand suffering. Somebody else does not give suffering to you. Nobody, not even the whole world, can bring suffering to you if you do not deserve it. So, there’s no point in finding somebody to use as an excuse, as a cause for our suffering. The cause for your suffering, as well as for your pleasure, is yourself. There’s an ancient South Indian proverb that says, “The good and bad, the pleasure and pain that you enjoy is not given to you by anybody else.” You sowed it, you are reaping it. If you sow a bitter seed, you will have a bitter fruit. If that is understood clearly, that itself is a big relief from suffering. The moment you know that you are suffering to clean you up, it’s no longer suffering. If you don’t understand it, if you don’t want it, the suffering increases. It’s like this example that I always give. A lady goes to the hospital, to the doctor and asks him to create pain in her stomach. “I should have had pain two days ago. I didn’t get it. Please induce some pain.” Why? Why does she want pain? Because, she knows that without the pain ,she cannot deliver the baby. Because she knows the gain, she’s looking for the pain. You pay thousands of dollars to the doctors to perform operations, even to chop off parts of the body. Why? Because, you know that without the operation, you cannot survive. All our pains are like that. If you understand pain, it’s no longer a pain; it’s a blessing. That is the message of suffering, the meaning of suffering.
Question: Are the medications that are commonly used by medical science to alleviate symptoms, but not cure, a good or bad course of action? What would you recommend to help people suffering from these ailments?
Sri Gurudev: I would say that modern medical science and their method of treating mental illness with drugs creates more problems. They are not curing the illness; they are just temporarily arresting the symptoms. When a baby cries with pain, you give a sleeping dose, and the baby sleeps. Or you numb those parts of the body that brings out the information in the form of pain. No; drugs are not the answer. Too often, drugs just simply lock people up, continue to dope them, and then make them just sit there like a jellyfish. That’s not the way. The best way is to follow the yogic principles in every respect. Calm the mind, calm the body, and calm the nerves. Let every experience in life bring more sattwic (calming) qualities. Your association, your thoughts, your words, your music, your food, your exercises should all be producing a sattwic condition, a tranquil condition, to calm the mind and nerves. It may take a long time, but that’s the only way. Any kind of agitation, even the littlest agitation, is enough to create turbulence. So, even in the name of diet, you have to watch everything that you take in, and watch for the result, the reaction of the body. Even a little stimulant might bring turbulence up. So, you have to know what agrees with you. Or, have somebody help you watch for the result. It’s not that it is impossible to cure, but it takes a lot of effort, a lot of attention. But, certainly, temporary cures with drugs are not the answer. That will only increase the problem. When there is depression, even the atmosphere should be pleasant, peaceful, elevating. The person should not remain in the same place where the depression started. The person should be transferred to a totally different, peaceful atmosphere.
Question: Have any of your disciples tried Yoga in helping people who have mental illness.
Sri Gurudev: Yes, there are some of my students working in psychiatric institutes. If you have psychiatric patients, you cannot just go with your regular class routine. That is, you should know how to act as a sort of insane person. You should make these students feel at home. And, then, in a sort of gentle, playful way, you can do some postures and let them copy you. It can be a little difficult to make them do anything. You have to use your common sense. Even with psychiatric cases, we would always recommend some change in the diet. There is a saying, “You are what you eat.” For everything, advise looking into eating habits and making the right changes. Also, we recommend teaching Nadi Suddhi. Students with mental problems should not do much Kapaalabhati. Nadi Suddhi really quiets the mind. What’s important is to try to avoid all the things that stimulate. Not just food and drink; even certain sights and certain people will stimulate them. Some mental patients, when they see the doctor, go more crazy. So, like that, mental patients may not want to hear certain words, may not want to see certain people, may not want to go to certain places, because all those things aggravate their condition.
Question: When the mind starts to lose the ego identity, what does it feel like? Does it happen instantaneously or gradually?
Sri Gurudev: It is instantaneous. But you lose that identity gradually. It’s almost like you go to sleep, but you don’t sleep right away. You lie down, doze off. Until you really fall asleep, you are not sleeping. You can gradually get into the mood of sleep. Once real sleep comes, you are not there; you don’t even know where you are, what you are.
Here is a chemical example: in the chemistry lab, we study how to balance the acidity into alkalinity. There is acid in one cup, and alkali in another cup. To reduce the acidity, and to make it alkaline, you drop in the alkali and keep on dropping it in and testing with litmus paper. Which drop will make it alkaline? You don’t know. Until the last drop, it is still acid, but you don’t know which drop will make it alkaline. It’s the same with all these Yoga practices. By these practices, we are slowly reducing our acidity. By dropping in Yoga, bit by bit, bit by bit, you lose your acidity. And, then, all of a sudden, you are all alkaline. It’s impossible to say exactly when. Keep on doing the practices. All of a sudden you will be enlightened. Whatever practices we do, we do with the mind. All the pujas, all the postures, japa, breathing, and so on— everything is mental. You, as the mind, are doing these things. That way, you are slowly rubbing and scrubbing and cleaning out the mind. All these things are there to help clean your mind. As long as you have false identification, you are insane, because you have assumed the limitations. You are limiting, separating, and identifying yourself. It’s nice to talk about all this, but, for it to mean anything, it has to be your own experience. Keep on practicing, keep on practicing, keep on practicing. One day, you will realize who you are. When, where, how, nobody can say. It depends on how sincere you are. Sometimes, people say, “Oh, I’ve been practicing so many years. I am not gaining anything or getting anywhere.” Then, they give up. Don’t do that. Never give up until the final day comes. Keep practicing. You will definitely realize that Truth. God bless you.